RV Driving Tips
So, you’re ready to climb up into the driver’s seat and hit the road. You’ve picked the ideal campground, made the reservation, stocked the RV, and locked the house up tight. Now if you only felt more comfortable mastering that “monster” on the road!
Take heart. According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), driving that RV really isn’t all that different from driving your car. Automatic transmissions, power brakes and power steering are practically standard equipment. And, with proper attention to the differences in vehicle size, height, and weight, you might even find that getting behind the wheel of the conversion van or recreational vehicle of your choice is actually fun!
Here are a few tips they offer RVers to get you on the road safely and securely:
- Adjust and use all rear view mirrors. Before leaving on a trip, sit in the driver's seat and take the time to adjust all mirrors for optimal road views. Then make sure to check each mirror before changing lanes.
- Account for your vehicle size when turning. The front and rear wheels of your RV will track paths much farther apart that those of a car, meaning your turns will have to be wider.
- Allow more time—for everything. Because of the size and weight of the RV, everything takes longer. Allow more time to brake, change lanes and enter a busy highway since bigger vehicles take more time to both accelerate and slow down
- Match your vehicle to what you’re towing. Most full and mid-size family cars can pull a trailer or popup tent, and so can many mini vans, 4x4s and light-duty trucks. Be sure to check your owner's manual to find the trailer types that your vehicle can safely haul and the maximum load weight. Also be sure to use the right trailer hitch and make sure it is hitched correctly.
- Connect brakes and signal lights. Always check that the trailer's brakes, turn signals, and taillights are synchronized with those of the tow vehicle.
- Back up with care. Often, the scariest part of driving a tow vehicle is when you have to back up. This is because the trailer turns the opposite way we’re accustomed to turning with just a car alone. One tip is to place your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel, and then move your hand the way you want the trailer to go. To move the trailer to the right, move your hand to the right
- Once the trailer is moving in the proper direction, avoid any sharp movements of the steering wheel. Slowly steer the vehicle into its desired direction. It is also a good idea to have someone outside the vehicle assist the driver in backing up to avoid any obstacles not seen in the mirrors. If another person is not available, the driver should inspect the area behind the vehicle first. By evaluating the situation before backing, drivers can avoid surprises and accidents.
- Buckle Up! Whether you're driving a motor home, van conversion, or tow vehicle, make every trip a safer one by buckling up your safety belt and making sure passengers are secured, too. According to the National Safety Belt Coalition, wearing a safety belt is the single most effective thing you can do to prevent serious injury and death in a traffic accident.
Take a class
Since nothing beats actual experience behind the wheel, you might want to consider taking a class. The Automobile Association of America (AAA) offers instruction for drivers wishing to learn the specifics of safe RV driving, including driver sensory assessment, defensive driving techniques, safety issues, popular destination ideas, and much more.
There are also a number of schools and services you can check out online, such as www.rvschool.com. Lastly, consider asking around at your local RV dealer. They may be able to recommend a class right in your own neighborhood.